Are good leaders lucky?
December 5, 2007
Most times successful leaders are smart in hindsight. Creators of world enterprises most often stumble into success. Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock noted, "I believe in luck and the harder I work the luckier I am."
Let me cut to the issue. Leadership is made up of a complex array of skills, intuitive understandings, personality qualities, opportunities and timing. In my view, there is no set or combination that is true for all. Those who are enormously successful in one generation or location may not have been so successful had they been born in another time or place.
What I find compelling about Walton is his ability to thrive on change. But for established communities, that is scary. American philosopher William Durant said, in effect, it is the tragedy of things spiritual that we languish if disorganized and yet we are destroyed by the material means of our organization.
Organizations become so quickly stuck in their ways, expectations and personnel that what is feared most is change. We brought major changes to Tyndale because 12 years ago it fell into insolvency—shutting off salaries and almost ending in bankruptcy. This opportunity forced change. Educational institutions are—in my experience—among the most immune to change.
Leaders from time to time need to rattle cages—upsetting the status quo, pressing the organization into change, sometimes for the sake of change itself. Within the trauma and unsettledness of change, ideas emerge, people's talents unfold, and external realities become opportunities, not threats.
Religious organizations are among the most resistant to change. It's strange isn't it, since the Gospel we preach is built on leaving the comforts of the present and moving into unknown and unpredictable places. For many, however, the Spirit—the Cloud, the Fire—has already moved on and they are still camped in their present comfort zone.
Conservative theology can by its nature breed organizational conservatism—meaning "reluctance."
If your style is to not ruffle feathers, to comfort the anxious, to smooth out the walkway, it may be time for you to leave and give a dust-disturber opportunity. Or take a risk, and press your people/congregation into a process by which they choose to take a risk on change.
Great Spirit of God who led Abraham from his Silicon Valley, who disturbed Moses to upset Your people, who rankled the stultifying conventions of the Pharisees to raise up Paul to lead, in this day and place may we discover the joy of faith and trust as we thrive on those opportunities of change that serves Your great purposes. Amen.
We all snickered at some writers who viewed Dad as a grand strategist who intuitively developed complex plans and implemented them with precision. Dad thrived on change, and no decision was ever sacred.